Free Russia Foundation: a Year in Review

Dec 29 2022

In May 2015, a report titled “Putin. War” was launched in Moscow, detailing the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and direct involvement in the military conflict in Donbass. The work on this report had been originally initiated by Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic leader of the Russian opposition, who tragically assassinated in the center of Moscow before he could finish it. His allies, including politician Ilya Yashin, who has been recently sentenced to a lengthy prison term in a clear case of political persecution, completed the report. Its preamble is a powerful call to action: “We should mass-print this report and give it out on the streets. Let us tell the Russian people how Putin started this war.”

The war. Since 2014, this menacing word has been encroaching, like a dark cloud, on European skies, until it finally exploded in 2022, raining down on Ukraine with thousands of rockets, destroying cities, killing and wounding civilians, sending millions of refugees away from home. February 24, 2022—the day the Kremlin began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine—has divided the life of millions into before and after.  

The past year has been life-changing for many. Last December, few could have imagined that the Donbass conflict would turn into an all-out war in the heart of Europe, precipitating humanitarian, energy, and other crises of global scale. With the onset of war, in Russia, we have seen a disturbing deterioration of state institutions, a massive wave of repression against dissidents, an imposition of military censorship, an increasingly unhinged propaganda, and a dramatic exodus of the Russians who opposed the war. The main challenge—the crisis of confidence—has emerged against the backdrop of Russia’s blatant violation of international treaties, norms, and human decency, but has not reached its peak yet. This war has also exposed flaws and failures that we all, as humankind, will be confronting for years to come.

Since its inception in 2014, Free Russia Foundation has been setting off alarms about the Kremlin’s growing aggression that threatens not only Russian citizens, but the entire world. On February 24, 2022, we strongly condemned Russian authorities’ criminal decision to launch an unprovoked, aggressive war against sovereign Ukraine. Russia’s forceful seizure of another country’s territory, its war crimes, and nuclear blackmail cannot be justified under any circumstances.

The invasion of Ukraine was shocking, painful, and profoundly traumatic for all of us. Yet, instead of incapacitating us, it strengthened our resolve, giving us new energy and purpose. Ending the war and alleviating the suffering it has unleashed became our focus. Since day one of the war, we have been campaigning to tell the truth about Putin’s war in Ukraine to the Russian people, spearheading efforts to free Ukrainian citizens taken hostage by the Kremlin, and assisting Russian activists, journalists, and politicians in exile so that they could continue their pro-democracy and anti-war efforts.

Helping Ukrainians brutalized by the war has been our priority. FRF has organized over 60 evacuation missions from the war zones in Kyiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhya, Kramatorsk, and others, taking to safety thousands of people—and their pets. We purchased medical equipment for Ukrainians in need, sending from the U.S. 200 tactical turnstiles (CAT), 70 equipped first-aid kits (IFAK), 70 anti-burn stickers, 70 breathing tubes; from Israel 105 emergency bandages, 110 anti-blood patches, 50 hemostatic bandages; from Turkey 80 walkie-talkies, and from Poland over 200 sleeping bags. We were sending tourniquets and drones to Ukraine.

On June 12, Free Russia Foundation coordinated anti-war rallies in 80 cities across 37 countries, striving to amplify Russians’ anti-war voices, show activists inside Russia that they are not alone, that there is international support for their fight, and counter the Kremlin propaganda’s claim that all Russians approve of the war.

On June 16, the Foundation launched an international campaign—#NOTOWAR / #НЕТВОЙНЕ—to unite voices of the Russian speakers around the world and help stop the war. In the wake of the Kremlin’s suppression of domestic dissent, this campaign calls on Russian diasporas and Russians in exile to speak out against the war—including on behalf of those Russians who, for objective reasons, cannot openly express their views. Through protests, information campaigns, and human rights activities, we pressure Russian authorities to withdraw troops from Ukraine, demonstrating the presence of a global anti-war Russian-speaking community. Our campaign includes both expert analyses and stories of ordinary Russians who have been affected by the war.

In September, the announced partial mobilization in Russia triggered a second wave of emigration. According to some estimates, between 150,000 and 1,500,000 citizens left the country—potentially amounting to the largest exodus in Russia’s recent history. Due to the drastic nature of this emigration wave, many Russians faced serious challenges along the way—from visa issues to financial hardships to acute emotional and psychological crises. FRF addressed this situation by providing legal and counseling support as well as drawing attention of European officials, diplomats, and journalists to these issues. Our legal aid program reached over 600 citizens of Russia and over 500 residents of Belarus. We helped several ethnic minority groups to evacuate thousands of people to Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

In the second half of 2022, Free Russia Foundation opened Resource Centers throughout Europe—in Berlin, Tallinn, Vilnius, and Tbilisi. These are public spaces where exiled anti-war Russian activists as well as Ukrainian activists working on humanitarian projects can get much needed assistance. Resource Centers offer legal aid and counseling, hold discussions, and organize anti-war events. We hope that these spaces will help build a strong global community committed to promoting democratic values, advancing peace, and facilitating political change in Russia.

The persecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza, our former colleague (until August 2021) and Russia’s prominent politician and human rights activist, has been another unhappy development in 2022. Vladimir was detained in April in front of his apartment building in Moscow. At first, he was charged with an administrative offense—for allegedly disobeying police orders. Criminal charges were consequently added to his case. Vladimir was accused of disseminating false information about the Russian military (this charge referred to his March 15 speech at the Arizona House of Representatives, in which he said that the Putin regime “is dropping bombs on residential areas, hospitals and schools” in Ukraine). Next, he was charged with collaboration with an “undesirable organization” on the account of his organizing a roundtable in support of political prisoners at the Sakharov Center in Moscow in October of 2021.

Finally, in October, an additional criminal charge was brought against Kara-Murza — high treason. This accusation is based on three public speeches he had given abroad, including one in which Vladimir had said that Russia was persecuting political opposition and introducing total censorship. The charge of high treason for public speaking is a cynical cover for the Putin regime’s persecution of the freedom of speech. This high-profile political case is clearly designed to fully silence Russia’s pro-democracy movement.

In response to these outrageous attacks on Vladimir, Free Russia Foundation has launched a global campaign calling for his release. Hundreds of media outlets around the world covered his case. Human rights organizations, U.S. and European politicians, Russian opposition leaders and international opinion leaders issued statements in Vladimir’s support, condemning his political persecution.

This campaign has been spearheaded by his wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, who became FRF’s  Director for Advocacy in 2022. Evgenia has spoken in support of Vladimir and all Russia’s political prisoners at hundreds of meetings with stake holders and opinion leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Her speeches were heard at forums and conferences in the U.S. and Europe and in the interviews with CNN, BBC, The Washington Post, Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, and many others. Public and political figures, such as Steven Cohen, William Browder, Irvin Cotler, Tom Malinowski, Roger Wicker, Robert Menendez, Michael McFaul, Ben Cardin, Marco Rubio, Dick Durbin, Vladimir Milov, Garry Kasparov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Lyubov Sobol, Sergey Aleksashenko, and many others joined the fight for Vladimir’s freedom. A group of the U.S. senators made a joint appeal to President Joe Biden, calling for action, under the Magnitsky Act, against those responsible for Vladimir Kara-Murza’s persecution.

Despite Vladimir’s arrest, decades of his anti-war and pro-democracy work have not been disrupted. He continues to write and share his work with the world through his lawyer. His resilience is truly inspiring. In recognition of his efforts, Vladimir has been the recipient of several international prizes and awards. In October, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) announced that its most prestigious award, the Václav Havel Prize for Human Rights, would be given to Vladimir. In November, the Geneva-based UN Watch also awarded him with its highest prize — the Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award. Vladimir dedicated this award to the thousands of people who had been arrested or detained in Russia for protesting Putin’s war in Ukraine.

This year, our team welcomed a prominent Russian pro-democracy politician, Vladimir Milov, as Vice President for International Advocacy. Vladimir is a recognized opposition leader, member of Alexey Navalny’s team as well as an economist and energy expert. Under Vladimir’s leadership, FRF continues combating autocracy and repression in Russia and countering aggression that the Putin regime unleashed on Ukraine and Belarus. Vladimir Milov is well-known for his unequivocal anti-war stance. In April 2021, he left Russia for Lithuania following persecution of Navalny’s organizations. In February 2022, he categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 6, 2022, Russia’s Ministry of Justice added the politician to its blacklist of “foreign agents.” Milov is a regular guest on CNN and CNBC, and is often cited by The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal.

This year Vladimir Milov published several important papers: “The EU’s Relations With a Future Democratic Russia: A Strategy”, “Beyond the Headlines: The Real Impact of Western Sanctions on Russia”, “Yes, It Hurts: Measuring the Effects of Western Sanctions Against Russia”. A series of his articles were also written for FRF and published on the Foundation’s website, among them — “What is the Russian Public Opinion regarding Putin’s war against Ukraine?”, “Saying “Nothing Will Ever Change in Russia” is not Only Unhelpful, It is Wrong”, “Russian Society is in the Midst of a Profound Transformation not Captured by Traditional Opinion Polls”.

Free Russia Foundation continues to integrate the insights acquired through our “field” work into studies and reports. This year, we have released the following reports: “Russian Emigrants: The Cost of Freedom,” “The Russian Economy and Sanctions: Who’s Who?”, “A Case for Supporting Free Democratic Russia,” “Russia-Turkey Relations in the Context of War in Ukraine,” “Yandex — the Kremlin’s Weapon Against Democracy,” “Decolonization in Real Time: Why the World Should Support Russians Running from Mobilization.” We have also penned profiles of political prisoners in Russia. Hundreds of posts on our social media accounts have focused on exposing the truth about the war in Ukraine, repression and censorship in Russia, highlighting the activities of the anti-war movement in Russia and the work of the Foundation.

In early December, our organization celebrated its eighth anniversary. Back in 2014, Free Russia Foundation first announced itself to the world as a group of activists supporting civil society and democratic development in Russia. In just a few years, we have grown into a powerful global movement uniting hundreds of talented professionals—civil society activists, human rights advocates, entrepreneurs, scholars, politicians, and journalists. What unites us is the vision that a free and peaceful Russia should and can be part of a secure and prosperous international community. It is our willingness to devote time, knowledge, and experience to achieving a common goal that has contributed to the Foundation’s success.

In 2022, the threat posed to the world by the Putin regime became evident to many. With its nuclear blackmail, this personalist authoritarian regime now endangers not only the neighboring nations but the entire world. In his 22 years in power, Vladimir Putin managed to largely insulate his regime from external challenges and secure his position in power for life. His regime destroyed the opposition and the independent media, subjugated the elites, and instilled fear in the Russian public. He also uses the war to ramp up repression and strengthen control over the country, signaling willingness to escalate internationally as well.

At Free Russia Foundation, we are convinced that an end to this conflict and a lasting peace in the region are only possible if we work together towards this goal. We believe that Ukrainian people will prevail, and the resolute anti-war stance of many Russians gives us hope. We will continue to fight against the Putin regime, following our vision of the future where Russia can become a beacon of peace and prosperity.

Russia’s Vladimir Kara-Murza Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Journalism While Incarcerated and at Increased Risk

May 06 2024

Washington, D.C. – Vladimir Kara-Murza, a distinguished Russian journalist and prominent opposition leader currently imprisoned in Russia, has been honored with the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his columns in The Washington Post. For decades, Vladimir Kara-Murza has been a steadfast advocate for Russia’s people, championing democratic reforms and transparency through measures like the Magnitsky Act.

Commenting on her husband’s Pulitzer Prize, Evgenia Kara-Murza, Advocacy Director for Free Russia Foundation, stated, “I will venture to say that Vladimir would dedicate this Prize to all the awe-inspiringly courageous journalists who continue their work spreading truthful information in Putin’s totalitarian Russia despite the risks to their freedom and often their lives.”

Kara-Murza’s is serving a 25-year sentence reminiscent of the Stalin era on absurd charges of “high treason,” among other politically motivated charges. His health is in jeopardy; he suffers from polyneuropathy, a severe nerve disorder affecting his limbs, which developed after surviving two poisoning attacks in 2015 and 2017. These attacks have left him with lasting health issues that require continuous medication and exercise to manage, none of which he is allowed in prison.

Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, where Vladimir Kara-Murza served as Vice President from 2019-2021, said: “We are immensely proud of Vladimir Kara-Murza for being awarded the Pulitzer Prize, a testament to his courage and unwavering commitment to truth. This honor not only highlights his contributions but also reinforces the urgency for the U.S. administration to designate him as ‘wrongfully detained.’ His unwavering commitment, even in the face of severe personal risk, envisions a future where Russia acknowledges its past wrongs and embarks on a transformative path towards genuine democracy​.” David J. Kramer, chair of the Free Russia Foundation board, added, “This important recognition of Vladimir’s courage and commitment to a democratic Russia should reinforce the urgency on the part of the international community to secure his release from the appalling conditions under which he is wrongfully imprisoned. That goal should apply to all those unjustly detained in Russia.”

Demand for Justice: Human Rights Groups Petition the U.S. State Department for Vladimir Kara-Murza’s Designation

Apr 12 2024

Washington, D.C. April 12, 2024 — In a joint effort, Free Russia Foundation (FRF), Human Rights Foundation (HRF), McCain Institute, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) are intensifying calls for the designation of an esteemed Russian pro-democracy activist Vladimir Kara-Murza.

The four prominent human rights organizations submitted a comprehensive 26-page petition to the U.S. Department of State, invoking the 2020 Robert Levinson Act. This request urges the designation of Mr. Kara-Murza as wrongfully detained and advocates for the transfer of his case to the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

In a joint statement, representatives from FRF, HRF, McCain Institute, and RWCHR emphasized Kara-Murza’s status as a U.S. Permanent Resident, which falls under the protection of the 2020 Robert Levinson Act.

“His detention meets all 11 factors enumerated in the Act: Kara-Murza is innocent, is detained for exercising his freedom of assembly, is detained in a country without an independent and impartial judicial system, and is being detained in inhumane conditions, to mention a few. And most importantly, U.S. diplomatic engagement is necessary to secure his release,”  Irwin Cotler, Venla Stang, Natalia Arno, Pedro Pizano, Brandon Silver, Mutasim Ali, and Polina Sidelnikova of the petitioner organizations asserted in a joint statement summarizing their legal analysis.

Amidst escalating repression and in the wake of Alexei Navalny’s tragic murder, Vladimir Kara-Murza stands as the Kremlin’s foremost target in its relentless assault on dissent. Vladimir’s plight epitomizes the chilling reality faced by hundreds of political prisoners and thousands of those facing direct repressions in Russia today.

As the Russian regime intensifies its crackdown on dissent, and with Vladimir Kara-Murza’s health in a perilous state, FRF, HRF, McCain Institute, and RWCHR implore the U.S. State Department to swiftly invoke the Levinson Act in his case and pursue all available avenues to secure his release and safe return.

For the full petition submitted to the U.S. Department of State under the 2020 Robert Levinson Act, please follow this link: https://www.mccaininstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/VKM-Statement-of-Facts-and-Levinson-Analysis.pdf

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian pro-democracy activist, historian, journalist, and television host, remains a prominent figure under Putin’s oppressive regime, recognized globally as both a political prisoner and a prisoner of conscience. As a close associate of the late Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, Mr. Kara-Murza played an essential role in the advocacy leading to the enactment of the Magnitsky legislation. This landmark legislation imposed targeted sanctions on Russian human rights violators across various countries. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) hailed Mr. Kara-Murza as “one of the most passionate and effective advocates for the passage of the Magnitsky Act,” while Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) lauded him as “a courageous advocate for the democratic process and fundamental universal human rights.”

Mr. Kara-Murza has faced life-threatening situations on two occasions. He survived assassination attempts in 2015 and 2017, both through poisoning with state-controlled chemical warfare agents, which left him in critical condition. Despite these perilous circumstances, Mr. Kara-Murza persisted in his pursuit of liberty. His exceptional contributions to the cause of human rights and democracy have been recognized through numerous prestigious awards, including the Sakharov Prize for Journalism as an Act of Conscience, the Magnitsky Human Rights Award, and the Geneva Summit Courage Award.

Mr. Kara-Murza has been unjustly incarcerated in Russia since April 2022, facing a barrage of trumped-up charges. Initially accused of disseminating false information about the Russian military, he was subsequently charged with participating in activities deemed “undesirable” by the state and ultimately accused of high treason for daring to criticize the Russian authorities on the international stage, which was initiated after his speech at the Arizona State House of Representatives in the United States where he referred to the bombing of residential areas and social infrastructure facilities in Ukraine.

Following a sham trial, on April 17, 2023, Mr. Kara-Murza was sentenced to an egregious 25 years in prison by the Moscow City Court. This is the maximum possible sentence for the charges and the longest sentence imposed on an opposition figure in recent years.

On June 13, 2023, the Senate of Canada bestowed honorary Canadian citizenship upon Vladimir Kara-Murza, placing him in esteemed company alongside human rights icons like Raoul Wallenberg and Nelson Mandela. Presently confined to solitary confinement in Siberia’s IK-7 penal colony, Mr. Kara-Murza’s health is deteriorating rapidly. Denied access to necessary medical care for his polyneuropathy, a condition stemming from the earlier poisoning attempts by the Kremlin, experts fear for his survival under the current conditions.

Biden Administration Must Accelerate Efforts to Free Kara-Murza

Feb 22 2024

President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Biden:

We the undersigned write to express a two-fold request of your administration. As we all mourn the loss of Russian democratic opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who died in Russian custody while unjustly incarcerated on February 16, 2024, we request that you accelerate your efforts to release imprisoned Russian prodemocracy advocate Vladimir Kara-Murza. Kara-Murza is an extremely vulnerable prisoner, and we fear that he may be the Kremlin’s next victim if the United States does not act swiftly.

Kara-Murza is a US lawful permanent resident (which the Levinson Act defines as a US national), a historian and Washington Post opinion writer, a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, a deeply principled man, and a passionate advocate for political and civil rights in his native Russia. He is also currently being held as a political prisoner by Russian authorities. Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kara-Murza chose to return to his country of origin in April 2022, saying that he must go back to stand with Russian antiwar protesters and against Putin. He was arrested just days after his return to Moscow, and has remained in prison since. In April 2023, Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence, on bogus charges for his criticism of Putin’s corrupt and repressive government and the Kremlin’s ongoing, devastating war against Ukraine.

Kara-Murza’s health has rapidly deteriorated while in custody. His wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, has reported that he has lost more than 50 pounds in the last year and is facing paralysis in both of his feet due to untreated polyneuropathy—a condition brought on as a result of the poisonings carried out by Putin’s government in the 2015 and 2017 attempts on his life. He was kept in solitary confinement for several months and is being held in a maximum-security facility.

Many of our organizations have been assured that his release is a “high priority” by several members of your administration; as a concrete demonstration of this claim, we request that Kara-Murza:

1.     Be immediately designated “wrongfully detained” under the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act.

2.     Be included in any ongoing negotiations with Russia.

First, as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) with significant ties to the United States, Kara-Murza meets the legal criteria to be designated “wrongfully detained” under the Levinson Act, and the US State Department should do so expeditiously. On August 14, 2023, the State Department confirmed that LPRs have been designated “wrongfully detained” under the act; Kara-Murza should be also. One notable example of a US LPR being designated “wrongfully detained” under the Levinson Act is Paul Rusesabagina of Rwanda, the famed “Hotel Rwanda” activist. Rusesabagina was designated “wrongfully detained” by the US government after his August 2020 flight to Burundi was redirected to Rwanda, where he was subsequently arrested, tortured, and sentenced to 25 years in prison in a sham trial.

Kara-Murza meets 10 of the 11 criteria in the law, which makes him readily eligible for the “wrongfully detained” designation. The law clearly states that designations can be made on criteria “which may include” the 11 enumerated provisions, but nowhere does it state that all 11 criteria must be met.

The Kremlin clearly considers Kara-Murza to be a high-value political prisoner, shown by virtue of the fact that he received the maximum possible sentence for the fabricated crimes pinned on him simply for his opposition to Putin and the Kremlin’s illegal war in Ukraine. For this, we want to stress that “wrongfully detained” designations may be private (as opposed to public). If the State Department considers a public designation to be too incendiary, a private designation is a suitable option.

Second, it is critical that Kara-Murza be included in any discussions with Russian officials regarding prisoner releases. As a US national, as defined under the Levinson Act, and a person who is seen by Putin as a significant prisoner, it is crucial for both Kara-Murza’s well-being and American foreign policy that he be released. We feel strongly that the United States has a clear obligation to prioritize the release of all unjustly detained American nationals, which includes citizens like Paul Whelan, Evan Gershkovich, Alsu Kurmasheva, and Marc Fogel, as well as Kara-Murza.

Kara-Murza is a hero who has courageously dedicated his life to advancing freedom and democracy. For his vision of a democratic and peaceful Russia, which is deeply in line with US strategic interests, he has suffered greatly at the hands of Putin and his cronies. Kara-Murza continues to sacrifice to defend the principles we hold so dear in the United States, and he is extremely vulnerable in prison.

The tragic death of Navalny underscores the risks political prisoners, especially high-profile ones, face in prison. We urge the Biden administration to act swiftly to bring Kara-Murza home and to increase efforts to seek the release of all Russian political prisoners.

Regards,

Individual Signatories:

  • Michael J. Abramowitz, President, Freedom House
  • Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Paige Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, the Carter Center; Vice Chair, Free Russia Foundation
  • Natalia Arno, President, Free Russia Foundation
  • John R. Beyrle, former US Ambassador to Russia and Bulgaria
  • George C. Biddle, Trustee and Chairman, Civil Courage Prize
  • Stephen E. Biegun, former US Deputy Secretary of State
  • Michael Breen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Human Rights First
  • Ellen Bork, Fellow, the George W. Bush Institute
  • William Browder, President, Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign
  • Agnès Callamard, PhD, Secretary General, Amnesty International
  • Christian Caryl, Independent Journalist
  • Michael Chertoff, former US Secretary of Homeland Security; member, Freedom House Board of Trustees
  • Honourable Professor Irwin Cotler, PC, OC, OQ, AdE.; former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
  • Uriel Epshtein, Chief Executive Officer, Renew Democracy Initiative
  • Evelyn N. Farkas, PhD, Executive Director, the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
  • Jennifer Finney Boylan, Author
  • Jane Harman, Cochair, Freedom House Board of Trustees; former Congresswoman from California
  • Tirana Hassan, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
  • John E. Herbst, former US Ambassador to Ukraine and Uzbekistan; Senior Director, the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council
  • Patrick Gaspard, President, Center for American Progress; former US Ambassador to South Africa
  • Carl Gershman, Former and Founding President, National Endowment for Democracy
  • Jon Huntsman Jr., former US Ambassador to Russia, China, and Singapore; former Governor of Utah
  • Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion; Russian opposition leader; Chairman, Renew Democracy Initiative
  • Jonathan Katz, former Deputy Assistant Administrator, Europe and Eurasia Bureau, US Agency for International Development
  • Ian Kelly, former US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and to Georgia; Ambassador in Residence, Northwestern University
  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky, founder, the Russian Anti-War Committee
  • Peter Kovler, member, National Democratic Institute Board of Trustees
  • David J. Kramer, Executive Director, the George W. Bush Institute
  • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Author
  • Leopoldo López, Freedom Activist; Cofounder and General Secretary, World Liberty Congress
  • Tom Malinowski, former Congressman from New Jersey; former US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
  • Félix Maradiaga, Nicaraguan opposition leader; President, Foundation for the Freedom of Nicaragua; member, Freedom House Board of Trustees
  • Michael A. McFaul, former US Ambassador to Russia
  • Sarah E. Mendelson, former US Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council
  • Alfred H. Moses, former US Ambassador to Romania
  • Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer, PEN America
  • Steven Pifer, former US Ambassador to Ukraine
  • Pedro Pizano, Assistant Director for Democracy Programs, the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
  • Alina Polyakova, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for European Policy Analysis
  • Maria A. Ressa, Chief Executive Officer, Rappler; 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
  • Randy Scheunemann, Strategic Counselor, Halifax International Security Forum
  • Natan Sharansky, former political prisoner in the Soviet Union; recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • John Shattuck, Professor of Practice in Diplomacy, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University; former US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; former US Ambassador to the Czech Republic
  • Brandon Silver, International Human Rights Lawyer; Director of Policy and Projects, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights
  • Gary Shteyngart, Author
  • Timothy Snyder, Richard C. Levin Professor of History, Yale University
  • John J. Sullivan, former US Ambassador to Russia; former US Deputy Secretary of State
  • William B. Taylor Jr., former US Ambassador to Ukraine
  • Daniel Treisman, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Daniel Twining, PhD, President, International Republican Institute
  • Peter Van Praagh, President, Halifax International Security Forum
  • Alexander Vershbow, former US Ambassador to Russia; former Deputy Secretary General, North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • Melanne Verveer, former US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues; Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security
  • Wendell L. Willkie II, former Associate Counsel to the President of the United States; former General Counsel, US Department of Commerce; Cochair, Freedom House Board of Trustees
  • Damon Wilson, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Endowment for Democracy
  • Marie Yovanovitch, former US Ambassador to Ukraine

Organizational Endorsements:

  • Civil Courage Prize
  • Free Russia Foundation
  • Freedom House
  • The George W. Bush Institute
  • Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign
  • Human Rights First
  • Human Rights Foundation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • The McCain Institute
  • National Democratic Institute
  • National Endowment for Democracy
  • PEN America
  • Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights
  • Renew Democracy Initiative
  • Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  • World Liberty Congress

cc:

The Honorable Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State

US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Mr. Jake Sullivan
National Security Advisor

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Alexei Navalny’s murder. Statement by Free Russia Foundation team

Feb 16 2024

Alexei Navalny’s death is a premeditated political assassination.

The personal responsibility for Navalny’s death lies with the man who usurped power and declared himself president of Russia. Navalny was murdered by Putin. This murder went on for years, every day, under the cover of lies and impunity. All these years, on Putin’s orders, he was persecuted, poisoned, imprisoned, and finally sent to a prison on the edge of Russia where he was held in torture-like conditions.

We offer our sincerest condolences to the family of Alexei Navalny — his wife Yulia, his children Daria and Zakhar, his brother Oleg, his mother Lyudmila Ivanovna, his father Anatoly Ivanovich, and all of Alexei’s family and friends. Your loss is immeasurable, and we stand united with each of you during this challenging time.

This isn’t merely a shock to us; it’s a deep and profound sorrow.

We call on world leaders, national governments, and international organizations to respond to this act of political terror.

The murderous regime in Russia represents a security threat to all citizens of the free world. It is in the interest of global security and the welfare of humanity to put an end to it.

Navalny’s murder was part of a tragic scenario against the backdrop of Russia’s dubious presidential “election”. Alexei Navalny, a leading critic of the Kremlin for years and a symbol of hope for change, had every chance of being elected as Russia’s legitimate president. This further emphasizes that Putin is an illegitimate usurper. Refusing to recognize him as the legitimate president now becomes not just a mandatory step, but a moral and political duty.

We demand justice for the memory of Alexei Navalny, for his family, and for all Russians who seek freedom. We will not stop until we achieve this goal. As long as tyranny and lawlessness persist, our work to defend human rights and promote democracy will continue.

Justice will prevail in Russia, and Navalny’s perpetrators will be punished.

Free Russia Foundation team.

The Plight of the Kremlin’s Political Prisoners

Oct 23 2023

Please join us for an in-person discussion on The Plight of the Kremlin’s Political Prisoners on Monday, October 30 from 12:00 noon to 1:30 pm at the Victims of Communism Museum located at 900 15th St NW in Washington, DC. The event will give a voice for those who can no longer speak for themselves and will include an interactive exhibit featuring photos and quotes of prominent political prisoners held by the Kremlin.

Space is limited, RSVP is required. The conversation is public and on-the record, members of the press are welcome.

The event will mark the International Day of Political Prisoners and feature substantive updates by:

  • Sergei Davidis, Head of Political Prisoners Program, Memorial Human Rights Center;
  • Evgenia Kara-Murza, Advocacy Director at Free Russia Foundation;
  • Mariana Katzarova, the UN Special Rapporteur on Russia;
  • MEP Andrius Kubilius, the Standing Rapporteur on Russia at the EU Parliament;
  • Karinna Moskalenko, Russia’s leading human rights lawyer, Founder of the Center de la Protection Internationale; and
  • Vadim Prokhorov, lawyer for political prisoner Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Expert presentations will be followed by an extensive Q&A session with the audience. The discussion will be moderated by Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation. To reserve your spot, please register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/743473939567?aff=oddtdtcreator

Speakers’ Bios:

Andrius Kubilius is a Lithuanian politician and a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). He served as Prime Minister of Lithuania from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2012. He was the leader of the conservative political party Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats. Kubilius became a member of the pro-independence Sąjūdis movement, which favored separation from the Soviet Union. He later became the Executive Secretary of the Sąjūdis Council. Soon after the re-establishment of Lithuania’s independence, Kubilius was elected to the Seimas (parliament). Since then, Kubilius has been an active figure in Lithuanian politics. Kubillius is the current Standing Rapporteur on Russia at the EU Parliament.

Mariana Katzarova (Bulgaria) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Russian Federation by the UN Human Rights Council on April 4, 2023. Ms. Katzarova led the UN Human Rights Council’s mandated examination of the human rights situation in Belarus in 2021-22. During the first 2 years of the armed conflict in Ukraine (2014-16), she led the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission team in Donbas as head of the regional office in Eastern Ukraine. For a decade she headed the Amnesty International investigations of human rights in Russia and the two conflicts in Chechnya. Ms. Katzarova founded RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in War) in 2006 after working as a journalist and human rights investigator in the war zones of Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya. At RAW, she established the annual Anna Politkovskaya Award for women human rights defenders working in war and conflict zones. She was Advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on combating human trafficking, and a senior advisor at the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).

Evgenia Kara-Murza is a Russian human rights activist and wife of political prisoner Vladimir Kara-Murza, the twice-poisoned Russian opposition leader, imprisoned since April 11, 2022 for speaking out about the war on Ukraine. She worked as a translator and interpreter in Russian, English, and French for pro-democracy NGOs including the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, the Institute of Modern Russia, and Pen America. She subsequently joined her husband Vladimir at Free Russia Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan international organization supporting civil society and democratic development in Russia. Advocating for human rights accountability and promoting civil society and democratic change in Russia, she serves as FRF Advocacy Director.

Sergei Davidis is Head of Political Prisoners Support Program and Member of the Council at the Memorial Human Rights Center in Moscow, Russia. He was educated in Sociology at Moscow State University and on Law at Moscow State Law Academy. For many years, he was a participant and one of the organizers of the democratic opposition movement. His research interests are closely related to activities to support political prisoners in Russia, and he studies the sociological and legal aspects of politically motivated deprivation of liberty, in particular, in the context of world practice and international norms.

Karinna Moskalenko is Russia’s leading human rights lawyer. She was the first Russian lawyer to take a case to the European Court for Human Rights and won the first ever case against the Russian government at the court in Strasbourg. She founded the Center for International Protection in Russia in 1994. She is a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. While some of her clients are household names: Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Garry Kasparov, Igor Sutyagin, Alexander Litvinenko to name a few, she has also represented countless victims of human rights abuses. She won more than 100 cases including AH & others v. Russian Federation where she was representing the rights of American families who were in the process of adopting children when Russia banned US adoptions with their so-called Dima Yakovlev law. Karinna moved her family to Strasbourg in 2006 where she founded the “Center de la Protection Internationale,” a human rights litigation NGO focused on litigating cases in international courts, which has filed and won more than 500 cases on behalf of its clients. For nine year, Karinna was a Commissioner for the International Commission for Jurists for which she is an Honorary member. Currently she is a head of the experts’ group, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council for the UN High Commissioner working on the UN mandated examination of human rights situation in Belarus. Vadim Prokhorov is a Russian human-rights lawyer who has defended critics of the Kremlin, including prominent opposition politicians and anti-corruption campaigners. He has defended many human rights activists, such as Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza and Vladimir Bukovsky. Prokhorov’s work as a lawyer has made him an important figure in the human rights field, as the Russian government has increasingly suppressed public dissent and oppositional work. This increase in governmental repression gravely impacted Prokhorov’s work, who has been representing human rights defender and opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza for the last ten years. Currently, Vadim Prokhorov continues his advocacy to protect the Russian opposition, political prisoners in Russian courts – online from abroad.